Rallying titles are such a rare beast these days and when Milestone parted company with the WRC license in 2013, it looked like the discipline would see less representation within the current marketplace. Happily, they’ve teamed up with 9-time World Champion Sébastien Loeb for a more focused experience which aims to do the sport’s most celebrated driver justice.
If you’ve played a Milestone racer in the last couple of years, a lot of the game’s structure and look with feel familiar. The same technology is under the hood so the functional but not outstanding visuals of previous games give the game an outdated look. As usual, the car models seem to get preferential treatment whilst the environments, lacking in fidelity, compensate for it in variety. 300 kilometres of track has been rendered across 8 worldwide locales. The majority are fictional which allows for more creativity in stage design and, for the most part, they’re tricky and fun to navigate. Rallycross is also represented with a handful of circuits and the game features Pike’s Peak in all its glory. There’s a lot of road for your rubber to meet and should take you quite a while to master.
You’ll get considerable practice too through the game’s main modes. There’s a career portion reminiscent of last year’s RIDE which tasks you with the usual regime of winning events to ascend a world ranking which then unlocks special events which culminate in a hill climb against Loeb himself. Success also nets you credits to bolster your garage and the option to rent vehicles sacrifices financial rewards if you just want to take on an event for the sake of it. Overall, there’s in excess of 100 events within this mode and may be where you’ll spend the majority of your time. It seems like the right amount as stages range from short 2-minute efforts to much more lengthy trials. Rallycross races do offer some change of pace but the bulk of things take place on a point-to-point basis. It can get a little fatiguing but victory has a definite sense of satisfaction.
Online play covers the same modes and performs well enough, even if getting a full lobby seems a difficult task at launch. Load times are arguably the game’s biggest noticeable issue, particularly with Rallycross events. They can take up to a minute and starting a new event usually means loading into another loading screen which can really dampen your enthusiasm.
The 50-plus car roster has been recreated respectfully and features a number of historical vehicles from the monstrous Group B death-traps to the more subdued modern WRC contenders. Its an interesting selection and the hill climb specialists feel and sound especially brutal. The handling seems accessible with options which can be catered to suit your preferred level of challenge. You can tweak car setups but there’s perhaps a lack of presets available for those that want something suitable without rolling too deep into menus.
Whilst aiming for a larger audience, mistakes are still duly punished. Rewinds are available which can prove valuable when learning a new surface or falling victim to the game’s physics engine which, whilst mostly consistent does sometimes provide curious results. It’s not as tight as DiRT‘s experience but it holds it together enough for you to feel the right amount of control and danger.
Loeb’s contribution has been quite enjoyable and insightful. The Loeb Experience mode charts highlights from his long and illustrious career within the WRC. It begins with his rookie years in the French Championship and builds to the glittering and enduring success he gained during his decade with Citroen. Each chapter is accompanied with interview segments with the man himself as he talks about his life behind the wheel, his childhood and even touches on his brief flirtation with Formula 1. Its where the game gains the most of its character and makes it stand apart. The events in this mode challenge you with replicating or altering the course of history. Think Sébastien should’ve disobeyed team orders when he was one win away from the title? Do it.
I’ve enjoyed my time with Sébastien Loeb Rally EVO and, whilst a fairly stripped down entry to rallying, this driving requires genuine focus and can be quite fulfilling whilst the retelling of a true great’s staggering career supplements what would otherwise be an ordinary racer. Fans and newcomers should get enough out of this package even if Milestone’s formula is starting to feel a little played out.